WRHS Tribute To
PFC Lori Piestewa
When I was small the men and women in my life told me that how a warrior died was just as important as how she/he lived their life. To fight and fight well, to die and die well, with honor, with dignity, for what you believed in and, if possible, with your friends. Lori did all these things. She can stand before her God without shame!
WRHS Class of 1965
Lori, I never met you. And I never even knew you existed. This is how I got to know you and what you represent.
At first it was Operation Enduring Freedom, than word came of Iraqi Freedom. I watched as it began to unfold; technology, preparation, staging, troops, speeches, commentaries, and demonstrations.
Voices rose to exercise their “right” to Freedom of Speech some for, some against, but you, you answered the call. You - after years of refinement in a proud heritage, tradition, and culture, were once again refined.
This time you donned the regalia of the best-of-the-best, the brave, and the proud – that of an American Military Soldier. In this new regalia, you erased from your memory the color, race, or creed of the warrior that stood next to you.
You took the Sacred Oath of the American Fighting Soldier.
I will never forget that I am an American fighting man.
I serve in the forces, which guard my country and our way of life.
I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will.
If in command I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.
I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which make my country free
I will trust in God and in the United States of America.
That person next to you who recited the same oath became your brother, or your sister. This was the day you became my sister. You see Lori – I too obligated my service in the same arena at a different moment in time.
Your mission and orders were to guard these principles, to place yourself between the oppressed and oppressor even if it meant giving up your life. Your orders were to exercise this not only in this country but throughout the world as well…and you did.
As the news of tensions escalated and Iraqi Freedom erupted, you were already there along with thousands of our brothers and sisters. The march on Baghdad began. Then news came of American soldiers dying, being taken prisoner or missing in action.
That night I got on my knees and exercised my “right” to pray and worship. I asked the Almighty One to take the souls of the ones that gave their lives with Him and to protect those that were held prisoner or missing and to guide their deliverance safely. Each day, more lives, more names and then one day, I saw your name, “PFC Lori Ann Piestewa Missing in Action”. Something else very profound hit me that day, not only were you a sister in uniform, but a sister by blood – a Native American.
My wife and family became involved; we listened and watched more intently. We read every news article that came from Arizona and the Reservation. We got to know all about you, a leader, a warrior, a professional, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a friend and mostly a woman of great honor. We prayed and waited on news of your safe return.
Then the inevitable news came one early morning. I opened the curtains to our living room and noticed it was raining as usual. Normally I wouldn't, but this day I noticed that it was raining and the sun was shining too. The beams of light from the sun created a brilliant rainbow that slowly lifted as the rain receded. We embraced and we shed tears together. The reality of “Why” rushed in and embedded itself with more earnestness in my heart.
You Lori - through your service have touched more lives and in doing so saved countless of thousands of people who would never otherwise experience or know “Freedom”. You have given us hope and we pray that the Iraqi People in time will understand what “Freedom from Want” and Freedom from Fear“ are, a “right” that so many of us in this country take for granted.
Now my dear friend and sister join the ranks of the Lord’s Angels. When the time comes you will once again fight for my soul and the souls of the human race. Thank you is not enough for what you gave.
United States Navy – Retired
Oak Harbor, WA
WRHS Class of 1973
(Picture created by Sam Baca, a cousin to Lori)
I attended the memorial service and the private family service for Lori last Saturday. It was an amazing experience! I have known Percy and Terry for some years and have always known of their kind hearts and their humor, but I never knew of their strong faith in God until this past weekend. If my niece (Kelly) hadn't been married to Lori's uncle (Jose), I would have not experienced this most beautiful & spiritual gathering. Through all their grief and heart ache, the family thought not only of themselves but everyone else. Her parents, her older brother and the family as a whole are totally amazing people!!
Early Saturday morning and under the cover of night, Lori’s body was returned home around 3 am. She was greeted by some of her family who took that precious time to spend alone with her. It was an unusually quiet, peaceful, calm night - no dogs were barking, no cars were out and about; there was just a total silence I have never heard in Tuba before. The family had been hounded by the media for three weeks straight, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have had no privacy at all and all they wanted was a little solitude.
So that Saturday morning, as Tuba woke up, very few people knew of Lori’s 8 am funeral mass. The family didn’t want the media to find out what was taking place. After mass, Lori was gently placed into the back of my nephew’s pick-up truck. With police escort in front of them and behind them, they left the church and drove right past the camera trucks & photographers that were just up the street from us. They must have thought it was a dignitary or something because no one followed the procession.
Her aunt, Mary Chris Martin delivered her eulogy Saturday morning during the burial mass and also did the Invocation at the Memorial services. Both were very spiritual and uplifting. It was a time to celebrate Lori’s life and not her death. There were times the tears flowed uncontrollably and yet there were times you couldn’t help but laugh at some of the stories they told about her. I didn't even know Lori on a personal level yet I felt like she was one of my own. Someone at the memorial services had said that she belonged to all of us and that statement was so true.
As her brother Wayland gave the closing prayer that evening, he asked that everyone hold hands. As we did, you could feel a presence in the air that I can not begin to describe. It was very strong, a bit frightening, yet so loving. As the thousands of people held hands and listened to Wayland’s prayers and the individual prayers of the small children in their family, he prayed for the safe return of our troops, the POWs and the remaining MIAs.
So many little miracles or signs were witnessed by family members and others since they got the bad news. How they saw the blanket of unexpected snow as a sign that her spirit had returned home. The full rainbow circle around the sun one Sunday that helped ease their pain and heavy hearts. How her two babies laughed and appeared to be talking to their mother one day. How the gentle rains began to fall as her body was flown out of DC. How the hawks flew overhead as they lowered her casket into the ground. But it did not stop there.
Sunday morning, when the phone rang and we got news that the POW’s had been found, I knew in my heart it was not a coincidence. I knew that baby girl of “ours” was not only watching over her family and sending them little signs here and there but that she also had something to do with POW’s being found. While listening to the sketchy news reports about the estimated time they were found, when the President had been notified and all everything else, what stood out in my mind was the time they were found. It was around 3 am, Sunday morning, 24 hours after Lori’s body came home. I strongly feel that with the help of God and His new angel named Lori, other families would not have to go through what her family did. Maybe it was to save them from the grief. Maybe it’s because they had not been able to hug their loved ones and say a proper goodbye before they were deployed. Maybe it was because there were some unspoken words to family members that need to be said. What ever the reason is, it was not luck or chance that they were found.
The whole experience and being with her family made me realize that I have a long, long ways to go to before the power of God shines through me. And believe me, He has His work cut out for Him.
As part of one of my favorite poems goes, “If you’re going to love me, love me now, while I can know……don’t wait until I am gone……I won’t need your kind caresses when the grass grows o’er my face; I won’t crave your love or kisses in my last low resting place. So then if you love me, if it’s but a little bit, Let me know it now while I am living so I can own and treasure it.” (Author unknown)
Baby girl, you are loved by all. You will remain in our hearts forever……..
Teresa “Terry” Bennett
WRHS Class of ‘73